Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
25 October, 2010
You may recall I really enjoyed Fred Vargas’ first Inspector Adamsberg mystery The Chalk Circle Man when I read it last year for R.I.P. IV. I’d also read The Three Evangelists which was my first foray into Vargas’ books and loved it too (although it’s separate from her Adamsberg books). So you can imagine my excitement in going back and reaquainting myself with the enigmatic Commissaire. For me, the main draw of her books is Adamsberg but her mysteries are pretty convoluted and it’s interesting to see how she untangles all the clues and does the reveal. So I was expecting more of the same and settled down to read it. But what’s this? Seeking Whom He May Devour isn’t set in Paris and Adamsberg doesn’t do his thing until almost half way through the book. I kept reading to see what was going to happen, slightly apprehensive that I may not like it, but Vargas once again delivers and I finished the book thinking what a bloody good writer she is. I’m excited to see what she will pull out of her sleeve next in the third book, Have Mercy On Us All.
In Seeking Whom He May Devour, we are in the Mercantour region of France, amongst villages and sheep and the wolves that cross over from Italy. Lawrence Johnstone is a Canadian wild-life photographer and expert who is keeping track of a family of wolves. He’s in two minds about leaving France because he’s fallen in love with the country and with Camille Forestier, a musician cum plumber, who has finally decided to stay in one place with Johnstone. When sheep start turning up gashed and dead, rumours start to abound about a monstrous wolf on a killing spree. When Camille’s friend Suzanne is savagely killed, Camille and her friends decide to track and hunt down this killer. Suzanne had spoken of a werewolf. In deep, dark Mercantour, can such a thing really exist? Adamsberg, on the other hand is in Paris, trying to evade a young woman who is out for revenge. Somehow everytime he flicks on the TV, news of the slain sheep seem to jump out at him. He needs to go into hiding but also decides to see what this is all about. He has also caught a glimpse of his lost love Camille on tv. As Camille and her friends draw their net tighter, things become complicated and she needs to bring in someone special to help her sort out the problem. The only person she can think of she doesn’t want to meet. But Adamsberg, with his uncanny sixth sense is nearby and he comes to Camille to untangle the mystery before the killer can kill again.
Have I whetted your appetite? I want to say so much more, but it’s a mystery and you really should go into this blind. For me the biggest draw is Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. It’s refreshing to find a character who may not be perfect but is so unconcerned about what anyone thinks of him and just goes about solving problems by thinking deeply and following his instincts and without locking horns with everyone around him. There’s something deeply human about him.
You can probably read this book as a standalone, however I recommend that you start with The Chalk Circle Man just to get a deeper flavour of Vargas’ creation.